April 2005

As the AP has reported, the bankrupt Chi-Chi’s Inc. and its subsidiaries have tentatively agreed to pay $800,000 to compensate nearly 9,500 people who got inoculated because of a hepatitis outbreak linked to a western Pennsylvania restaurant.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the class action settlement agreement, which must still be filed in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware, from William Marler, a Seattle attorney who represents the plaintiffs’ class.
The victims will split $800,000, but how much each gets will be determined by how many of them eventually file claims with the court, Marler said. His firm will get a fee of $150,000, though Marler said that money would be donated to charity after his firm pays $50,000 in expenses spelled out in the deal.

“With class actions what’s bothered me in the past is that everybody (the plaintiffs) gets a coupon and the lawyers get a million dollars,” Marler said.

Four people died and more than 650 people were sickened by tainted green onions served at the restaurant at Beaver Valley Mall in western Pennsylvania.

Attorneys for more than 80 people who claim they were sickened by tomatoes served at Sheetz convenience stores in Virginia and other states last year want a bankruptcy judge to O-K a plan to mediate pending lawsuits.
Seattle food-illness attorney Bill Marler asked a federal judge in West Virginia to allow plaintiffs’ attorneys to bargain with those representing Sheetz and Coronet Foods. Coronet is the now-bankrupt company from Wheeling that sold the salmonella-tained tomatoes to Sheetz.
Any settlements of less than 50-thousand dollars would be paid outright; larger settlements would need court approval.
More than 400 people were sickened in nine states — including Virginia — in the outbreak at the Pennsylvania-based chain of convenience stores.
The Centers for Disease Control traced the tainted tomatoes to a Florida packing house which it has not identified.

In the last two weeks 1,200 High School and Elementary School students from Stockton, California, 5,000 patrons of a Clinton, Tennessee Waffle House, and thousands who ate a Norfolk, Virgina Soul Food Restaurant all have something in common – all are being urged to get Immune Globulin (Ig) shots to prevent the infection and further spread of hepatitis A after being exposed to a hepatitis A infected foodservice worker.
It seems that hardly a month passes without a warning from a health department somewhere that an infected food handler is the source of yet another potential hepatitis A outbreak. Absent vaccinations of food handlers, combined with an effective and rigorous hand washing policy, there will continue to be more hepatitis A outbreaks. It is time for health departments across the country to require vaccinations of foodservice workers, especially those that serve the very young and the elderly.

Continue Reading Call for Hepatitis A Vaccinations for all Foodservice Workers

Nearly 1,200 High School and Elementary School students are being urged to get Immune Globulin shots to prevent the spread of hepatitis A after being exposed to a hepatitis A positive cafeteria worker.

“It seems that a month hardly passes without a warning from a health department somewhere that an infected food handler is the source of a potential hepatitis A outbreak,” said attorney William Marler, managing partner of the Seattle law firm of Marler Clark. “Absent vaccinations of food handlers, combined with an effective and rigorous hand washing policy, there will be more hepatitis A outbreaks. It is time for health departments to require vaccinations of food handlers, especially those that serve the very young and the elderly” added Marler.

Continue Reading Attorney Again Calls for Mandatory Hepatitis A Vaccinations for all

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has just taken a bold, yet small, step to try and prevent a repeat of last year’s outbreak that sickened nearly 100 people, mostly children, who were stricken with E. coli O157:H7 after visiting a petting zoo at the North Carolina State Fair.
The Department of Agriculture announced new guidelines for human-animal interaction at fairs and petting zoos yesterday. It will require the separation of animals and children at petting zoos, as well as the presence of multiple hand washing stations and warnings to the public of the risk of disease spread by animals. These guidelines all make sense, but they are only guidelines.

Continue Reading Praise for North Carolina Petting Zoo Guidelines – But are guidelines enough?

There’s nothing more American than a State or County Fair. From Washington and North Carolina to New York and Florida, countless numbers of children visit their local Fairs to ride the rides, feast on cotton candy and hot dogs, and visit those cute farm animals at the petting zoos. Unfortunately, some of the children will get very sick from doing a very simple act – petting those animals. And the sickest ones, most of them very small children, may be close to death before their doctors identify the cause – a relatively new strain of deadly bacteria known as E. coli O157:H7.
So what do we do? Banish the county fair? Close down petting zoos? Fair organizers and petting zoo owners need to take some rather simple and inexpensive precautions. North Carolina Department of Agriculture has just taken a bold, yet small, step to try a prevent a repeat of last years nearly 100 people, again mostly children, who were stricken with E. coli O157:H7 after visiting a petting zoo at the North Carolina State Fair. Separation of possibly infected animals and children is a positive step. Adding multiple hand washing stations and warning the public of the risk of disease spread by animals all makes sense, but they are only guidelines.

Continue Reading Praise for North Carolina Petting Zoo Guidelines

Recently the media has focused public attention on a one inch piece (uncooked) of a finger found in the chili at a fast-food restaurant. Claims and counterclaims have flown. But, at this writing, most indications point to a grotesque hoax.
It’s too bad that some people make bogus, unsupportable claims of food-borne illness. But they do, and that means that health officials — and lawyers — need reliable criteria for identifying illegitimate claims.

Continue Reading How to Keep Your Focus on Food Safety

It seems that a month hardly passes without a warning from a health department somewhere that an infected food handler is the source of a potential hepatitis A outbreak, which further proves that the restaurant industry should act now and require vaccination of its employees.
Now the Regional Health Department has confirmed that a foodservice worker who worked at the Waffle House restaurant located at off Highway 61 in Clinton tested positive for hepatitis A. People who ate at the restaurant between April 1 and April 15, during the time when the worker was infectious, are now at risk for developing hepatitis A infection. The infected Waffle House worker is suspected to be the victim of a larger outbreak of hepatitis A that is believed to have caused at least 17 acute hepatitis A infections. Health officials have traced the outbreak to a restaurant in LaFollette.
The Regional Health Department organized a clinic to inoculate patrons of the restaurant who ate there between April 5 and April 15. The average incubation period for hepatitis A infection is thirty days, but can be as long as fifty days. A person who is infected with hepatitis A is infectious for the two weeks pervious to symptom onset and for two weeks thereafter. Immune globulin shots prevent hepatitis A infection, but only if administered during the two weeks following exposure to the virus.

As spring beckons and families begin flocking to petting zoos, fairs, and other animal venues, a few people are coming down with serious illnesses. Some of the latest incidents occurred in Florida, where 60 people in 18 counties have confirmed or suspected cases of E. coli-related illness. The sources were petting zoos in three central Florida counties, and children have been the most vulnerable.
Similar incidents seem to be on the increase, says Jeff Bender, an assistant professor of veterinary public health at the Univ. of Minnesota and co-chair of a March 25, 2005, report published by Centers for Disease Control, prepared by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians, and endorsed by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
A list of about two dozen documented incidents in the past decade or so (in IL, MN, OH, NC, NY, OH, OR, PA, TX, WA, WI, the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Ontario, and a few overseas locations) has been assembled by a Seattle law firm (Marler Clark, William Marler, 206-346-1890). Some of these incidents, which affected a total of more than 1,000 people, are highlighted in the CDC report.

Continue Reading SERIOUS HUMAN ILLNESSES LINKED TO SOME ANIMAL EXHIBITS

Folks who received an inoculation shot after the hepatitis A scare surrounding Arlington’s now-closed Friendly’s last year might be entitled to compensation thanks to the settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed jointly by Marler Clark and local counsel Sabra and Aspden. The terms of the settlement were approved by the Middlesex Superior Court in February, and if finalized in June, would allow qualifying individuals to receive a lump sum of $200 from Friendly’s. Effected individuals were recently sent notification.
Qualifying individuals are requested to submit claims by May 30 to be included in the settlement class.

Continue Reading Friendly’s in lawsuit over hepatitis A scare